Rose Eggert, long time CEO of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society, will be retiring this summer. This profile of Rose originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Northern Gardener.
Rose Eggert grew up in the garden. As a child in Willow River in northern Minnesota, she walked down the hill everyday to her grandparents’ house, where her grandmother grew masses of poppies to make the traditional Czech delicacy, kolache. Later her parents moved to Shoreview and apple trees, cherry trees, roses and a big vegetable garden sprang up around the 2-acre landscape.
So when she saw a “help wanted” ad from MSHS in 1997 for someone to answer the phones and greet visitors, she thought, “I’m going for that one.”
Rose retires later this summer as chief executive officer of the organization, having led it through difficult times and having done nearly every job at MSHS. Recruiting volunteers, helping with fundraising, managing finances, hiring staff and running the MSHS retail operation have all landed on her plate at one time or another. “The only area I did not have my hand in was the publication,” she says.
Soon after her hiring, MSHS faced financial difficulties, which required cutting costs for the organization to survive. “Rose’s fiscal austerity has served the society well,” says Mike Heger, chair of the MSHS board of directors, “and we are in a strong financial position today because of her money management skills.”
While painful, decisions made then kept MSHS afloat and gave the organization time to forge stronger relationships in the horticulture industry and take advantage of new opportunities. Rose served on the Membership Committee of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association and began working more with commercial members of the organization. Several new and successful programs began during her tenure, but she’s quick to give credit to others.
“Dick Larson came up with the idea of Spring at the Inn (now called Spring Garden Gala),” she says, “which has been a great fundraiser for us. Or Mary Maguire Lerman’s idea to create MSHS Pollinator Packs of plants to celebrate our 150th anniversary.” Other innovations under Rose’s leadership include the Garden in a Box program, which introduces gardening to youth and low-income families, and the creation of the Friends of MSHS, a group of super-volunteers who help the organization raise money.
“She always encouraged new ideas,” says Dick Larson, who served on the MSHS board for six years and has volunteered for MSHS for about 20. “She was always available to volunteers.”
While high-level decisions involving finances and strategic direction are a big part of her job, Rose embraces the small but necessary tasks as well: watering the plants at the MSHS office after she arrives each day at 6 a.m., vacuuming up debris after volunteers pack bulbs for the home and garden shows and, for many years, driving a truck with a large utility trailer to the Minnesota State Fair, and backing it into a parking spot with less than a foot on either side. “I was the only one who dared do it,” she recalls.
A self-described multi-tasker and planner, Rose will be easing into retirement. She looks forward to spending more time with sons Aaron and Brian and their spouses, but she will continue to help with MSHS billing and finances for several months. She also has a 7-acre property in Hugo to maintain. With grapes, hops, apple trees and ornamental beds, the garden is a source of joy to Rose.